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How to Find a Counselor Who Will Fight for Your Marriage

These questions can help you find the right counselor.

The hero saves the princess. He rescues her from the evil stepmother, eternal sleep, or whatever danger she faces. With one kiss, they live happily ever after. That was the childhood goal, right? Happily ever after?

What the stories failed to tell us is that happily ever after doesn’t just happen. My wife and I are approaching 17 years of marriage. I’d be lying if I told you it’s all been rainbows and sunshine. Don’t get me wrong; married life is great. Our relationship is stronger today because of the hurdles we’ve overcome. 

But a great marriage takes work. It’s two people committed to seeing the best in each other and working daily to make their relationship the best it can possibly be. It means seeking out resources to learn and grow. It means surrounding yourself with people who want to see your marriage succeed. 

And sometimes, it means seeking help from a professional. A counselor who will fight for your marriage can do wonders for your relationship. Counseling isn’t just for marriages in distress, either. 

But where do you start? How do you find a counselor who will be beneficial to your marriage?

If you’re considering counseling, ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the main thing I think we need help with? Look at what’s going on in your marriage. Identify areas where you could use some help to grow.
  • What is your goal? Identify a goal for your marriage. Maybe you need to address some issues. Perhaps you are looking to enhance a specific area of your relationship.
  • What do I hope happens as a result of going to counseling?

How to Find a Counselor Who Will Fight for Your Marriage

Michele Weiner-Davis, marriage therapist and director of The Divorce Busting Center, offers this advice for selecting a counselor:

First and foremost, ask friends and family for references.

Find out if people you know and trust have had positive experiences with counseling. Ask who they worked with.

Find a therapist with specific training and experience in marital therapy.

Marital therapy isn’t the same as individual therapy, and it requires different skills. Seek out someone who has the training to help you achieve your goals.

Ensure that the therapist desires to help you find solutions to your marital problems rather than helping you leave your marriage.

Some counselors may be more concerned about the individual as opposed to the relationship. Ask them when they see divorce as a reasonable alternative. The answer to that question can reveal a lot about their desire to see a relationship succeed.

Make sure you feel comfortable with your therapist.

They should not side with either you or your spouse. Instead, their role is to help you achieve a goal you both set for your relationship. You should both have the freedom to speak up if you feel uncomfortable in any way.  

Ask what their relationship values are.

Knowing their values will help gauge their willingness to help your marriage succeed. Successful marriages don’t look the same for every couple. Make sure your therapist is open to helping you explore different avenues to a successful marriage.

Set goals together.

This process involves you, your spouse, and your therapist. The only way to gauge progress is to have set goals.

Most marital problems are solvable.

Find a therapist who wants to help you solve them. Everyone is capable of change. With set, agreed-upon goals, you can both work to achieve what you desire.

Trust your instincts.

You know when someone is helping or willing to help. If you question whether a therapist has your marriage’s best interests at heart, don’t stay with them.

Your marriage is your most important relationship. Invest the time, energy, and money to have the best relationship possible. No two marriages are the same, and someone else’s success isn’t your success. If you feel like counseling will help your relationship, find a counselor who will fight for your marriage to be the best it possibly can.

Other helpful blogs:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

What To Do When Your Spouse Gives You The Silent Treatment

Here's some help for those times when silence is NOT golden.

When your spouse gives you the silent treatment, it can be frustrating, painful, and confusing. It happens when one spouse refuses to communicate, ignores, withdraws from, or totally avoids their partner. It may not mean there’s absolute silence. You might still talk about daily tasks like who’s picking up the kids, who’s handling laundry, or dinner. The silent treatment shows that one person is unwilling to address an issue or connect in any meaningful way.

Ouch.

If you’re getting the silent treatment, what do you do?

Process On Your Own

What triggered the silent treatment? When did it start, and what were you discussing? Did something happen that may have been viewed negatively? You may not even know, but thinking about it can help you understand your partner’s perspective. 

What’s the goal? Is my spouse trying to punish me, hoping I’ll feel the pain they feel? Are they withdrawing so they can process their own thoughts and emotions? Are they trying to protect themselves? 

Processing can help you listen to and better understand yourself and your spouse, but try not to let it cause you to look down on your spouse.

Address it Carefully

Start with Compassion. Often, we use silence when we don’t have or can’t use healthy conflict resolution skills to deal with issues. 

Is the silent treatment a healthy approach? No. Especially when it’s used to control or manipulate. It can be abusive. (More on this later.) 

Provided this situation is not an abusive use of the silent treatment, remember, this is your spouse — and something sparked the treatment. This doesn’t mean you justify or excuse the behavior. It’s purely recognizing that something caused your spouse emotional pain. And different people respond to pain in different ways.

Speak directly to the issue. You might say something like, “I know you haven’t been talking to me lately. I’d like to discuss what started this. Can we talk?” 

Never forget, your body language and tone of voice communicate 93% of your message to your spouse. Getting the words right isn’t as important as having a healthy attitude toward your spouse.

Be Willing to Listen and Understand. When your spouse is ready to talk, put your energy into understanding their thoughts and emotions first. Some people give the silent treatment because they feel unheard. Let your spouse know you want to understand their thoughts, feelings, and their desires.

Model Healthy Skills to Resolve issues. You can’t change your spouse, but you can control yourself. Demonstrating respect, openness, and transparency while working together to resolve conflict can paint a picture of the kind of communication many people crave.

Things to Think About While Talking 

Don’t play the blame game. Focus on the ultimate goal: resolving the issue in a healthy way. Using lots of “I” statements and as few “You” statements as possible can keep you from blaming each other and getting distracted.

Own your contributions. Frame it this way in your head. “I understand that I hurt you when I did or said _______.” This focuses on the pain without justifying their response to the hurt. And when appropriate, apologize for the pain you triggered.

Be self-aware of your emotions. Your spouse may express a lot of pent-up emotions. They may flood you with more than you were expecting, but try to keep your emotions from controlling you. Be aware of your feelings as they share. At an appropriate time in the conversation, share. Remember, though, one of the reasons for the silent treatment could be they don’t feel heard. 

What if the Silent Treatment Continues?

Know what you can and can’t control. You can’t control how your spouse responds to emotional hurt. But you can control how you respond. You can gently let them know you’re ready to talk when they are. And you can choose to acknowledge the issue without letting it control you.

Don’t badger or nag. You can’t force someone else to talk. Don’t try.

Seek help. If you need to talk to a trusted friend or seek a counselor for your own mental health, it’s worth the effort. If you don’t go together, going alone can be helpful.

When is the Silent Treatment Abuse?

Consistently using silence to control someone can be abuse. Healthline lists the following signs to look for: 

  1. It’s a frequent occurrence and is lasting for longer periods.
  2. It’s coming from a place of punishment, not a need to cool off or regroup.
  3. It only ends when you apologize, plead, or give in to demands.
  4. You’ve changed your behavior to avoid getting the silent treatment.

I don’t recommend the silent treatment as a strategy for solving marriage problems. But a good starting point is to talk with your spouse about how you can resolve conflict in healthy ways. Your spouse may feel like you haven’t heard other attempts to solve problems, and understanding that may help you find better solutions together. It may be something as simple as asking for a timeout and agreeing to discuss later. Or it may take some effort for them to feel you’re an emotionally safe person to talk to. Whatever the case, learning to be compassionate without excusing the behavior may be the trick to eliminating the silent treatment in your relationship.

Other helpful blogs:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at:1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Why Does My Husband Watch Porn?

The reasons are complex and different from person to person.

Your husband watches porn. I’m sure this has caused some mixed feelings within you. Should you be concerned? Or should you be okay with this? Or maybe you’re concerned about how okay you are with it. And you’re not sure how you feel about that

But your big question is, Why? What’s the allure, the drive, the motivation? Is it something you’re doing or not doing? Regardless, talking about why husbands watch porn isn’t an easy topic. But you’re looking for answers. 

I honestly don’t know why your husband looks at porn. But we can narrow it down to what we know is quite common out there among guys. 

Before we dive in though, let me tell you what more than likely is not the reason he looks at porn: you. Unless you’re force-feeding him to look at those images online, you are not the reason. It’s nothing you did, or how you are, or the way you do things (or don’t do things) in the bedroom or otherwise.

Take it from a guy who’s been in the struggle. Sometimes, I’ve even put the blame on my wife for my online behavior. Thinking things like, “Well, if she weren’t so tired all the time,” or “I can’t even remember the last time we had sex.” Doing this is easier than facing the reality of my own guilt or shame. So, even if your husband tells you it’s your fault, it’s still his decision to look at porn. Let’s just take that pressure off of you.

Now that we can lay that aside, what are some common reasons happily-married guys look at porn? 

They began the habit at an early age.

The younger a guy has his first exposure to pornographic images, the more profoundly it affects him throughout his life.1 Studies have shown that kids exposed to pornography are more likely to want to repeat what they’ve seen without understanding what they’ve seen.2 Think of the weight of that. Their views of sex are easily skewed to focus on power, self-satisfaction, fear, or violence rather than intimacy, connection, and love. If your husband began looking at porn early on as a child, it possibly formed a habit that was harder to kick than if he were first exposed later in life. 

Pornography has deep-seated effects on the brain.

Studies show that the physical landscape of the brain actually changes when a guy watches porn.3,4 It creates neural pathways, making it easier to fall into the trap of desiring pornographic images over and over. It’s like paving and repaving a road to make it easier to travel on each time. Chemical processes occur, which researchers have compared to that of cocaine addiction; the reward centers in the brain are in full-tilt, promising euphoric (although temporary) feelings with each “hit.” The bad news is that with each encounter with porn, it takes just a little more “shock” to get the same amount of high as before.5 The good news is the evidence is strong that the brain can be re-rewired to reverse porn’s adverse effects on the brain.6,7,8

He may be caught in a vicious cycle.

For many men, sex is a short-term cure for anxiety, depression, stress, or insecurity.9 The problem is pornography has been shown to increase these negative feelings.10 Here’s the general idea: Your husband views porn to get some relief from, say, anxiety. And it works, but only for a short time. What comes next, however, are feelings of shame and remorse. Shame turns into more anxiety. And he’s back where he started. If your husband is caught in a negative cycle, it might be hard for him to understand how to break out of it. 

He just doesn’t know it’s unhealthy.

Sometimes what porn provides masks the damage it does to a person, their brain, and their relationships. It could just be that he’s blind to what porn is doing to him, you, and your marriage. 

These four ideas are usually at play among men who watch porn. But reasons why a husband views pornography are complex and differ from person to person. 

One thing we know: pornography can be damaging to a person’s mental health and to their marriage. This is why it’s critical to talk to him about his reasons and seek professional help if necessary. Understanding why he watches porn is the first step; keeping your marriage healthy and protecting it is the ultimate goal. 


TAKE THE GUESSWORK OUT OF YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

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***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Sources

1American Psychological Association. (2017). Age of first exposure to pornography shapes men’s attitudes toward women

2Martellozzo, E., et al. (2016). I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it: The impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours of children. London: NSPCC

3Hilton, D.L. (2013). Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. https://doi.org/10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767

4Pitchers,K.K., et al. (2013). Natural and drug rewards act on common neural plasticity mechanisms with delta FosB as a key mediator. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013 

5Love, T., et al. (2015). Neuroscience of internet pornography addiction: A review and update. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs5030388 

6Pfefferbaum A., et al. (2014). White matter microstructural recovery with abstinence and decline with relapse in alcohol dependence interacts with normal ageing: A controlled longitudinal DTI study. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(14)70301-3 

7Yau, Y. H., et al. (2015). Gambling disorder and other behavioral addictions: recognition and treatment. https://doi.org/10.1097/HRP.0000000000000051

8Rullmann, M., et al. (2019). Adiposity related brain plasticity induced by bariatric surgery. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00290

9Perry, S.L. (2018). Pornography use and depressive symptoms: Examining the role of moral incongruence. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156869317728373

10Koob, G.F. (2013). Addiction is a reward deficit and stress surfeit disorder. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00072 

What to Do When You Feel Disrespected in Marriage

These tips can help you find out what's really going on.

*This article does not refer to verbally or emotionally abusive behaviors. If you think you are a victim of marital abuse, immediately seek help from a local agency or call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1.800.799.7233.

No one deserves to be disrespected. 

And it feels awful when someone disrespects you, especially the person you love the most. 

The bad news is we know that contempt and criticism increase the likelihood of marriages going sour. A marriage simply cannot thrive in an environment of disrespect. (Communication Killers has more on this.)

But there’s good news. Disrespectful behavior can change. Marriage can get stronger. And you can feel better about your spouse’s behavior.   

And here’s where we start. 

As I wrote in 4 Reasons Why Respect Matters in Marriage, respect is how you show genuine appreciation for another person. Respect is an action, not just a feeling. It’s a declaration of value for someone. We show respect by how we behave toward our mate. 

Before declaring your freedom from disrespect, it’s crucial to stop and reflect on what’s going on. Examining what you’re feeling helps you approach the problem in a healthier way. 

I find it helpful to dissect the disrespect. 

Separate the disrespectful behavior and the feeling it produced. I know you feel disrespected. But for a moment, view disrespect as merely your spouse’s behavior. 

Consider: I was disrespected when my spouse did or said… 

And then dig deeper: Their behavior made me feel… (angry, upset, incompetent, hurt, sad… but don’t use the word “disrespected.”) 

Separating the disrespectful thing they did from what you feel helps in a couple of ways. First, it helps you consider your spouse’s intention. 

People show disrespect for several reasons: 

  • They’re trying to cover insecurities
  • They don’t realize how their behavior affects others.
  • They let their anger get the best of them.
  • They’re just being a jerk on purpose. 

Now, I can work with the first three reasons. They don’t excuse the disrespect, but those obstacles have concrete solutions. And they give insight into my spouse’s intentions. 

The fourth reason, well, is a little more complicated. But I’m gonna make a huge assumption that you didn’t look deep into your spouse’s eyes on your wedding day, knowing they were a big jerk. 

And if you did (I’m not gonna judge), or if something happened and they just turned jerky one day, seeking help from a professional may be the best approach. 

Separating disrespectful behavior and the way it makes you feel also helps you examine yourself more closely. When you’ve been disrespected, it’s essential to call out the emotions. What I mean is, label them. Give your feelings a name: anger, frustration, sadness, incompetency. You can deal better with what you can name.

Finally, separating disrespectful behavior and the resulting feelings helps you consider other important questions: 

  • What specifically was the disrespectful behavior that occurred? 
  • Is the disrespect a one-time thing, or has it been repetitive?
  • Does my spouse know they’re being disrespectful? Do they see how it affects me?
  • Is my spouse being intentionally disrespectful? Is it on purpose?
  • How sensitive am I usually to what others do or say? Does this paint how I see my spouse’s behavior? 
  • Is there something else going on in my own life that could affect how strongly I feel toward my spouse’s disrespectful behavior?

Let’s think about one more thing: It’s entirely possible for a person’s insecurities to cause them to take another’s well-meaning words or actions as a sign of disrespect. We all have to stop and ask ourselves, when we feel disrespected, “Is there something inside causing us to perceive disrespect in something well-intentioned?” 

No one deserves to be disrespected, and it can be painful. But if you feel that your spouse disrespects you, you need a healthy approach to deal with it. Listening to each other, along with good reflection, determines a healthy approach. And this can lead to a better conversation with your spouse, so you can work through this together.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Help! Our Intimacy is Gone

Rekindling the passion may be easier than you think.

You expect a campfire to burn hot and then turn into ashes. But you didn’t expect the fire to die down in your marriage, did you? Love… sex… connection… You expected them to go through ruts, maybe. Highs and lows? Sure. But nobody expects to wake up one day and realize the intimacy is gone.

And we’re not just talking about sex. Intimacy is way more than sex. It happens when you and your spouse fully know and experience each other—sexually, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

If your intimacy is gone, there are some things you can do to understand why—and find ways to reignite the flames. These questions and “fire starters” may heat things up a bit.

Has your marriage become child-centered? 

Before kids, the backseat was for… you know. (Oh, don’t act like I’m the only one!) But maybe now the backseat is full of car seats. Does your marriage feel like it’s taken a backseat to the kids?

Children can be exhausting. (I know. I’ve got seven of them!) They keep you awake, and they require a lot of energy. It’s hard for parents to be intimate. It can be different, though!

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Schedule kid-free time.
  2. Give kids a bedtime that allows you to be friends and lovers.
  3. Schedule a good babysitter for date nights.
  4. Teach your kids to do some things on their own.
  5. Intentionally put the married back in married parents.

Where’s your focus? 

It may seem logical to you that if intimacy is gone, more sex will help—but it doesn’t work that way. I said this earlier, but it’s worth repeating: Intimacy is about so much more than sex! In fact, there are 6 different types of intimacy in marriage. (If you want to learn what they are and how you can grow them, check out this toolkit.) When intimacy is gone in your marriage, focusing on emotional intimacy is a great place to start rekindling the flame.

Fire Starter Tip: 

Schedule 15-20 minutes daily to learn about each other’s thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, emotions, etc. 

No technology. No kids. And no interruptions. 

This consistency will reignite and deepen your intimacy. If you’re too busy, cutting something out of your schedule to focus on each other will help. (Try these marriage conversation starters.) 

Are you holding back? 

Being vulnerable is hard. I get it. Especially if there’s been hurt, distrust, or betrayal. But hiding parts of yourself from your spouse (or feeling unsafe) can smother the fire of intimacy. Without transparency and vulnerability, the disconnection grows and blocks the airflow.

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Breathe life into your relationship by identifying why you may be holding back.
  2. Discuss why it’s hard to open up. A good marriage counselor can help.

Are you both at your best? 

I feel like I’m a better husband when I’m:

Esther Perel, author and marital intimacy expert, says we can offer our best when we are most connected. Different seasons of marriage—having a new baby, caring for a loved one, or working an intense schedule—call for different responses. Being sensitive to extra stress your spouse may be experiencing can increase intimacy.

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Look at your schedule together and prioritize your marriage. 
  2. Talk about how you can help each other.

What do you expect? 

The early stages of marriage can make you think intimacy is natural. There’s a 2-year honeymoon phase when your body naturally produces chemicals that drive your passion. After that, your body stops producing those chemicals, so it may feel like the natural intimacy is gone. It can hit you unexpectedly. You wonder if you married the right person or if you’re just not in love anymore. More than likely, you’re just moving to a different season of marriage. Perel tells us that our desire for our spouse increases as we see them in their element. It reminds us why we fell in love and increases our curiosity about them. 

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Don’t look at what you’ve lost; look at who you’re missing. 
  2. Acknowledge and appreciate what your spouse does well. 
  3. Stay curious. 
  4. Do something different.

Intimacy dies when we stop exploring each other (in all the ways) or put up walls. But sometimes, fresh eyes or fresh adventures can get that flame burning high and hot once again. Don’t give up!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

I’m Trying to Save My Marriage, but My Spouse Isn’t

You can still make a difference in your marriage.

Each new year, people examine things they want to change or improve. Some people want to work on their marriage. That’s a worthy goal, but what if you’re one of those people who’s trying to save their marriage, and you feel like your spouse isn’t trying? That can be painful, for sure.

Marriage is two people who choose daily to walk together through life. It’s probably a good idea to find out whether you’re having a marriage problem or if you or your spouse are having individual issues that are impacting your marriage. A good marriage counselor can help with that. In either case, these steps can help you move forward. 

Take time for self-reflection.

Inventory your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, challenges, areas for growth, etc.

Ask questions like:

  • Why do I feel like I’m the only one trying?
  • What’s making me feel dissatisfied?
  • How do I want my marriage to be? 
  • Am I trying to change my spouse or trying to add value to my marriage?
  • What can I do differently?
  • How am I putting forth my best effort?

Walk a Mile in Your Spouse’s Shoes (Empathy).

Now that you’ve examined things from your perspective, put on your spouse’s shoes. Look at your marriage from their perspective. Ask them what they’re thinking and feeling. When you’re open and curious, they may be willing to share. Maybe they don’t want to add anything to your plate. Seeing through your spouse’s eyes may show you that they’re trying more than you realize.

Change the Dance (It Only Takes One).

Even though “It takes two to tango,” you can change the dance! It may be challenging, and you may be tired of taking the first step, but don’t give up! Marriage therapists say that if just one person is working to improve the marriage, there’s hope. There are many great resources out there to help. And who knows? Before you know it, you may not be dancing by yourself at all.  

Connect More by Criticizing Less.

Sometimes we think we’re “helping” when we point out our spouse’s mistakes or missteps. Sure, we have good intentions, but our spouse hears criticism. They may think who they are (or their effort) isn’t good enough, so they just give up. Criticism hinders connecting. I want to challenge you to say 5 positive things for every negative thing you say. Experts say this makes a massive difference in your relationship. (Check out 30 Days of Gratitude and Love here.)

Be The Change You Want To See.

The key to being the change is your attitude/perspective. Changing may require that you do things without expecting anything in return. Or just listen. Or just put one foot in front of the other. What kind of change do you want to see? Are you connecting in a meaningful way with your spouse and creating space for things your spouse enjoys?

Mark Gungor, marriage speaker, says we should try to “outdo the dog.” Think about how your dog greets you when you come home. Your fur baby shows you they’re excited to see you and spend time with you. What if you tried this with your spouse? What could it hurt? 

Nobody wants their marriage to go through changes and hard times, but it’s normal. If you’re in a challenging stage, your willingness to keep trying to save your marriage may help pave the way for your spouse to try, too. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How to Overcome Built-Up Resentment in Marriage

Even though it may be hard or even painful, a healthier relationship is worth the effort.

If you knew a killer was in your house, you’d fight to protect your family, right? Well, built-up resentment can be a silent killer in marriage that’s hard (but not impossible) to overcome. 

Festering resentment affects what you think of your spouse and how much you trust them. It can erode emotional intimacy and connectedness. It can also lead to contempt, which is something you definitely don’t want in your marriage.

It’s painful when your spouse hurts, disappoints, or makes you angry over and over again. Those unresolved issues, repeated disappointments, and unmet expectations can leave you feeling stuck in a nasty rhythm. You may even be wondering if you can ever move past the resentment you feel. Or even like your spouse again. 

You’re not alone or crazy. And resentment is something EVERYONE struggles with.

Overcoming built-up resentment in marriage isn’t easy. These tips can help as you try to overcome built-up resentment toward your spouse.

Choose to let some things go.

Allowing your hurt or anger to determine what you think about your spouse is not helpful. Try to understand yourself and your triggers. Letting go of resentment is a win for your marriage.

Empathize and recognize.

We all want to know our feelings matter. When we’re struggling with resentment, we sometimes make short or snappy responses and snarky comments or give our spouse the silent treatment. And that resentment continues to build when we don’t feel heard. My wife and I are still growing in this area. We’ve been working on not having to be right all the time, understanding each other’s emotions, and trying to empathize with tough choices. Understanding each other has been a game-changer for us.

Try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Recognize that they may have good intentions. (Read more about empathy here, here, and here.)

Forgive and Apologize.

Easier said than done, right? This can be a hard one. But if you don’t forgive and let go of grudges you’ve been holding, you’ll continue to feel disconnected. You may be trying to punish your spouse by holding on to resentment, but forgiveness allows you both to heal and grow.

Retrain your brain.

Resentment often makes little things seem worse than they really are, and it can rewire your brain to think negatively toward your spouse. That may leave you in a resentment rut. Get out of that rut by focusing on the positive without ignoring what’s bothering you! Show your spouse you appreciate them, and acknowledge how they make you and your marriage better.

Be honest with yourself.

Is it really about your spouse, or is there something personal you may need to work through? Our past experiences and our self-protective instincts affect the way we see things. You may think your spouse is being inconsiderate or selfish, but it’s possible you made an assumption or tried to read their mind (been there; doesn’t work). You (or both of you) may have a blind spot or two. 5 Days to Better Communication may help you see a little more clearly. 

Dig deeper by asking: Why am I holding on to this anger? Does this remind me of something else? Am I afraid of something?

Be honest with your spouse.

Find a good time to talk about your feelings. Use as many “I” statements as possible and try to stay away from phrases like “You never” or “You always.” Tell them how specific actions and comments make you feel without accusing your spouse of being all those nasty things you’ve probably conjured up in your mind. (That kind of conversation goes nowhere, fast!) It’ll be much easier to talk to each other if you’re not focusing on the negative.

Get the support your marriage needs.

Sometimes you’re gonna need a little help to work things out. If there’s an unwelcome visitor in your home and you can’t handle it yourself, you’ll call for backup. A qualified counselor can help you deal with deep-seated resentment or move past that thing you can’t let go of. There’s no shame in seeking help when you need it. And your marriage may depend on it. 

Resentment can totally kill your marriage if you don’t deal with it, so working through resentment is worth the effort. Together, you can overcome the obstacles, attack the issues instead of each other, and move forward in your marriage.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Why People Really Have Affairs (It’s Not Always Just About Sex)

Protect (and maybe even save) your marriage by being open with your spouse and talking about these ideas.

Marital affairs are kind of like rust. On the surface, it’s apparent that a single, ugly event has happened. But underneath is a complex process of chemical reactions and driving forces that have built up over time. Affairs are complicated like that. And finding out why people really have affairs can be even more complicated.

Therapist Esther Perel describes an affair as having three essential elements: 

  • A secretive relationship
  • An emotional connection
  • A sexual chemistry

The word chemistry is used here because actual sexual activity doesn’t have to be involved to be a marital betrayal. To paraphrase Perel, the mere thought of a single kiss can be as powerful as hours of lovemaking. 

It’s essential to understand emotional affairs-—when one is getting their emotional needs met by someone other than their spouse—are just as damaging to a marriage as sexual affairs. Not to mention the fact that emotional affairs often quickly escalate to sexual ones. 

But what causes a spouse to stray? It’s tempting to want to peg the blame on a single factor. He just wasn’t getting enough from his wife, so we went hunting in the bars. She didn’t feel loved at home, and another man showed her attention. 

Rarely do affairs boil down to one single reason. What leads up to the one-night-stand or the seductive conversations over text is usually a mix of ingredients that have been simmering for a while. To understand this, it might be more helpful to think of affairs as having contributing factors rather than reasons.  

Let’s look at five of these contributing factors to help explain why people have marital affairs: 

1. They let their guard down. 

Good marriages do not prevent affairs. Just when you think, “I could never do that,” or “Our marriage is much too healthy for infidelity,” is when you are the most vulnerable. Anne Bercht, director of Beyond Affairs Network, writes that the keys to affair prevention are realizing your marriage is not immune because it’s good, and being informed. She says there is no such thing as affair-proofing your marriage. But “developing open, honest, respectful communication in your relationship, including the ability and commitment to give and receive constructive criticism” is a strong foundation to keep your guard up. 

2. They let their marriage go out of focus. 

We often become hyper-focused on work, stress, hefty schedules, or even kids. Especially kids. Life happens. It’s easy to fool ourselves and say we do this for our marriage. The problem is our marriage suffers because it’s not being focused on. It’s in these circumstances the doors to infidelity crack open. You can minimize this factor by ensuring your focus remains on your spouse. 

3. They give a NOD

Infidelity and marriage expert Scott Haltzman explains in his book, The Secrets to Surviving Infidelity, that an unfaithful partner gives a “NOD” toward an affair: Need, Opportunity, Disinhibition. The Need is something they feel is missing in their life, such as love, respect, attention, or emotional support. The Opportunity for the affair might be a business trip, an office party, the gym, or being alone with someone in your circle of friends. And the Disinhibition can be alcohol or drugs, but perhaps more often something such as resentment, depression, or a sense of entitlement. 

What is interesting is the NOD can also be the key to avoiding infidelity. The more two people seek to meet each other’s needs in marriage, it minimizes the opportunities and disinhibition that leads to betrayal. 

4. They were seeking something they feel they didn’t have. 

Esther Perel says that affairs are less about sex and more about desire. “At the heart of an affair you will often find a longing and a yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity…” The problem here is that often the other spouse doesn’t know these things are missing because they are never told. A healthy person communicates needs to their spouse. 

5. They aren’t happy with themselves. 

Many times, the affair is more about the unfaithful person than it is about the marriage or the other spouse. Perel, again, offers lots of wisdom here: “When we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner we are tearing away from, but the person we have ourselves become… We aren’t looking for another person as much as we are looking for another self.” Experiencing something missing from your marriage and seeing the NOD at work requires a hard inward look at yourself. It begs the question, “Am I happy with who I am? Am I about to let dissatisfaction with myself damage my marriage with this choice? 

The truth of the matter is we are all capable of having an affair. However, every spouse has the ability to say, even though I am capable, I will make the conscious choice not to walk through that door. As Anne Brecht puts it, be informed. Be aware of the contributing factors that can be at work and work to reverse those. Be open with your spouse and talk about these ideas. Together, make the conscious choice to remain steadfast in your marital relationship. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***